Props for games based in modern times have a serious advantage over those in fantasy or sci-fi games; they don’t have to be anachronistic or pass a believability test. Not to mention, modern props are so much easier to come by.
I don’t think a prop should just by a 3d representation in a game, I think it should be a puzzle you hand the players and allow them to follow the clues and leads it creates. When I was younger, I played a game by Infocom, called “The Witness” (1983), a text-based murder mystery that included several props: a matchbook, a real newspaper, letters, etc. I remember how those props added such depth and realism to the game.
You could get an entire campaign’s worth of adventures with a purse or wallet filled with props and leads, and for me that is the largely untapped potential of using props.
So here is a list of possible modern game prop ideas:
- Flash drive/disk- You could fill this with clue, red herrings, photos, e-mails, links, documents, etc.
- Toy gun/knife- beware, shoot your gm with an air soft gun and…
- E-mail- Set up a fake e-mail account for your NPC and send the players cryptic notes
- Website- Set up a fake MySpace or Facebook page, blog, Livejournal, etc. Fill the site with fake photos, and clues, and misleading information
- Matchbook- You could take one for an existing business, or make one out of cardstock
- Business card- You can buy business card paper for your printer
- Cell phone- Take an old cell phone and put in a fake address book, take photos, set up phony calls sent and received to act as clues to further leads
- Newspaper- You could make a fake paper using programs like Publisher, or take a paper from the city your game is set in and add clues (circle dates, numbers, cut out articles, etc)
- Video- Depends on how involved you want your props to be, you could make some amazing prop videos, fake home movies, etc.
- Camera- digital, disposable, .35mm, filled with pictures to point to clues and adventure possibilities
- Laptop- much like the above mentioned items, a laptop prop could be filled with enough clues, hints, and misleading information to sustain an entire campaign
- Drug label- using sticker paper, make fake prescription labels
- Diary- it would take some time, but you could create an entire fake journal for an npc that drops clues and hints about major plot points in the campaign
Larpers get to take the modern prop to the next level:
- Address book- Is the killer listed? List addresses on npcs, businesses, and contacts. This could turn into an amazing cross town adventure tracking down leads
- Bus station key- You could place clues in a bus station locker, and drop the key as a prop. The number of surprising things you could leave in there are unlimited.
- Hotel key- A pricey version of the bus station locker key
- GPS coordinates- use a Garmin or similar gps device to lead the pc’s to a remote location
- Map- a low-tech version of the GPS, circle a location or make notes on a road map